News cancer
Aug 30

Dr. Janet Rowley Awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor

The Cancer Research Foundation wishes to extend heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Janet Rowley, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom this August for her work in cancer and chromosomal diseases which proved that cancer can be a genetic disease.  The Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor and is intended to represent an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavorsClick here to see Dr. Rowley's remarks on her prize.

Janet Rowley was one of the CRF's early grantees.  In 1977, she was awarded a small grant to study a group of lymphoma patients who exhibited missing chromosomes before they developed secondary leukemia.  Two years later, as Dr. Rowley prepared to work her findings into a much larger study to be presented to the National Institutes of Health; the Cancer Research Foundation awarded Dr. Rowley an additional $50,000 grant.  As Dr. Rowley later suggested, research conducted with that funding represented the basis for a major project encompassing the work of 12 scientists and a budget of almost a million dollars a year, representing a fantastic return on the original CRF investment.

It is worth pointing out that the work Dr. Rowley was pursuing with these grants provided by the Cancer Research Foundation was some of the earliest work involving therapy-based leukemias.  It is particularly exciting that this year, as the CRF has made a commitment to fund significant further pursuit of this disease, Dr. Rowley should receive such an honor in recognition of her discoveries and research in genetics and cancer.  Since that first funding, The Cancer Research Foundation has continued to count Dr. Rowley as an important advocate and advisor and continues to follow the funding strategy that made its early funding of her work such a success: funding new scientists and innovative novel science at an early stage, before more traditional funding sources are willing to consider it.

Dr. Rowley continues to serve as the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology and Human Genetics at the University of Chicago.  She has received many honors for her work in cancer and genetics research, including both the Lasker Award and the National Medal of Science in 1998 and, most recently, this year's Genetics Prize from The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation. She continues to head an active laboratory that focuses on the connections between genetic changes and cancer, especially leukemia.

Rowley's contributions to identifying chromosomal abnormalities in leukemias and lymphomas have changed the way these diseases are diagnosed and treated. Today, newer techniques can identify the DNA damage within individual cells, offering a much more precise diagnosis of disease-and more effective treatments. 

Congratulations, Dr. Rowley; we can't tell you how proud we are to have been an early supporter of your work!